Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is estimated to affect 9.4% of children aged 2 to 17, according to the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health by the CDC. Typical treatment for children with ADHD includes prescription medication and various aids to help stay on task. We’ve written about IGotThis, an online and smartphone app for parents of children ADHD that helps manage children’s and family tasks. We also covered Washington State University’s elder care robot that tracks what people are doing and when appropriate provides video reminders; we mentioned at the time the robot’s services could potentially help people with ADHD.

The FDA recently cleared Neurosigma to market the first medical device to treat ADHD in the U.S. The company’s Monarch external Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation (eTNS) system is a prescription-only device indicated for patients 7 to 12 years old with ADHD who are not taking prescription medication for the disorder. The non-invasive Monarch eTNS system sends low-power electrical pulses via the trigeminal nerve on the forehead to the patient’s brain. A small electrode patch placed on the child’s forehead — just above the eyebrows — connects by wire to the cellphone-sized Monarch device. In most cases, the eTNS treatment is administered at night while the child sleeps. Patients usually report feeling only a slight tingling. The FDA clarifies that while science has not yet explained how the eTNS works, neuroimaging studies show increased activity in regions in the brain associated with regulating attention, emotion, and behavior. According to Neurosigma, a 2015 neuroimaging study showed that patients
aged 7 to 14 who used the eTNS system for a few as four weeks had an average decrease in symptom severity of 44%.

As one of the 4.4% of adults who have ADHD, the concept of a device that could help with distractibility and impulsivity (the most common symptoms for adults with the disorder) is intriguing. I’ve had successful experiences with TENS machines to lessen pain following extreme rotator cuff surgery with both shoulders and electro-acupuncture for pain in my hands from to repetitive stress injury, so personally I’m predisposed to beneficial results from nerve stimulation. The Monarch system’s clearance for prescription in the U.S. will be interesting to follow, especially with the increased awareness of the disorder in children and adults. Monarch’s eTNS system already has CE approval for sale in Europe.